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Empowerment—Taking Responsibility

There are two ways of exerting one's strength: One is pushing down, the other is pulling up.
BOOKER T. WASHINGTON

Most employees have found the concept of empowerment hollow and without meaning. While the idea raises the expectations of people to the possibilities of being treated like responsible adults, the reality is that most front-line people can't buy a three-hole punch for thirty-five dollars without approval. If your organization is proclaiming the new religion of empowerment, here's how you can benefit:

  1. Meet with your boss. Ask him or her:

    • What will be different as a result of this new management philosophy. Press for specifics. If these are not forthcoming, provide some examples. "May I now settle clients' claims for up to one hundred dollars without authorization?"

    • To identify specific barriers that prevent more decisions being made at your level. If training is an issue, ask when the training might take place.

    • What the consequences are for mistakes.

  2. If you are a team-based organization, there will be an expectation that you and your team will become increasingly self-managed. This presents exciting possibilities. You should encourage your team to meet to identify

    • existing boundaries and parameters;

    • new boundaries;

    • increased responsibilities for such things as who will run team meetings, who will decide on allocating work, who will schedule holidays, who will deal with conflict, who will be responsible for hiring decisions, and how these decisions will be made.

  3. If you are in a unionized organization and are part of the bargaining unit, you may be discouraged from doing things that are deemed to be managerial in nature. If you are in doubt, discuss the issue with your boss and your shop steward.

  4. Some increased responsibilities may change the nature of your job. Your job classification could be impacted too, enabling you to earn more. If this is the case, consult your boss and people from human resources for advice.


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